Secret Jeep Location | Moab, Utah
the hearnes » adventure elopement photographers
Nicole + Matt’s secret elopement in the desert near Moab, Utah
"We're just a taking a little ski trip to Utah." That's what Nicole and Matt told friends and family who asked. This idea for a trip wouldn't be too foreign for them, but really what they meant under that little ski trip, the unsaid little secret which turned out to be a big secret, was "We're eloping to Moab."
They didn't tell anyone. I think that's so cool. Their wedding day was just them, Conner (my brother who officiates most of our elopements when the couple isn't bringing someone to do it), and Callen and I. We had a full day of desert adventures planned which all started with a strenuous hike lit by headlamps to find a vista for sunrise.
The morning was beautiful and slow. The silhouette of the La Sals came into view as we sipped coffee from a Hydroflask, watching as the light turned from blue into the light orange of the desert. We took some pictures and hiked around a little more. Nicole looked amazing in her first, more casual dress and a jean jacket, and Matt wore his suit. I love these slow mornings, breaking the day in without being in a rush for everything, capturing moments but mainly just living them.
We went back and rested up a little bit before meeting up in the afternoon and loading up in a Jeep outside of Moab's infamous rock shop. It was time for the big excursion! We rented from Dan Mick's fleet of Jeeps and had a rad route picked out. The drive was so beautiful. I kept looking at Matt and Nicole, seeing them smile at each other, and it made me so happy. They were having one heck of a ski trip, for sure. The road was pretty crazy and difficult to drive, so we hired one of Dan Mick's tour guides which I'm delighted we did, especially because we could just sit back and enjoy the ride.
When we finally got out to the point, I was so excited. The moment where the edge gives way to the views of the land below is always one of my favorites. Nicole and Matt were so stoked! Their minds were blown away by the view when we got out to the point. They hugged and couldn't stop smiling. Nicole was so excited as she went back to the Jeep to change into her dress and put some finishing touches on her makeup (Lesley did her hair and makeup) in the side mirror (which makes for some of my favorite adventure bride pictures).
We did a first look on the edge of the canyon overlooking the desert towers below with the La Sal Mountain range in the distance. Nicole was carrying around her beautiful bouquet by Val made with local flowers. They picked out their ceremony spot, and then it was time to do the dang thing! Conner delivered (as always) with an incredible sweet ceremony that had everyone tearing up, and they did what they came out here to do, said the I do's, and were officially husband and wife!
They popped champagne and broke out a little picnic to enjoy on the edge of the cliff. The food was a nice little spread of Trader Joes treats (my favorite), and they fed each other their favorite snack, Hot Doritos. I felt like we were in one of those Doritos Super Bowl commercials (because when I do watch the Sports Bowl, it's for the commercials) turned real life.
Then Nicole hand decorated their cake on the side of the Jeep, and they cut it, signed their marriage license, and our Jeep guide served as the witness! Then we had a little fun, and Nicole (who's a yoga instructor back home) did some poses on the edge of the cliff that would have made my back hurt. The sun started setting, and it turned into one of our classic mega Moab sunsets before giving way to a beautiful blue hour.
The drive home got a little chilly, so Matt and Nicole snuggled up, but we were all so stoked after such a fantastic day it didn't bother us at all. Saying goodbye in the parking lot was a little hard as it usually is after our wedding days. I wish we could freeze time every once in a while.
Then I thought about our initial emails when Nicole told me she asked Matt what he imagined their wedding day would be like. He responded about hiking up rocks and trying to hold her hand, which she usually wouldn't be about since she's super independent, but she said something sweet about doing it together, about wearing a dress that day and needing a hand climbing over the bigger boulders. I remember Matt said whatever would make Nicole happy, he'd be down for (he also mentioned getting epic cliff shots).
It just made me happy. Yeah, the day had to end, but it went exactly how they wanted - hiking, hand holding, epic cliff shots and all.
PS, Matt, and Nicole! Thanks for the care package. Stuff like this means the world to us. Can't wait to have you out here again to share more Doritos and sunsets!!
The Hearnes Adventure Photography is run by Abbi and Callen Hearne, a husband & wife wedding photography team with an emphasis on adventure. They live on the road as full-time nomads, allowing them to serve a large portion of the western US. You can typically find them in Moab, Utah or Yosemite National Park, California, with side-quests to Patagonia and Alaska. They believe love is the greatest adventure and strive to create photos that are epic, romantic, true, and timeless.